Yesterday, Kyle and I finished up our first organized century of the year, the Strawberry Century (http://www.santiamspokes.org/strawberry.html). I was really looking forward to this ride because it represented the first organized ride on my new bike.
This week, I’d been doing a lot of riding to break things in. Without counting this century, I’d put in close to 300 miles on my bike – so I was curious to see how my legs would hold up.
The ride itself – lots of fun. This is the first time that I’ve ever ridden the Strawberry and it’s a nice route filled primarily with rolling hills and nice scenery. There really is only one short, steep hill to be climbed – so you can actually push the pace of the ride if you wanted to.
And how did the new bike do? Great. I can tell that there are places where I’m definitely faster on this bike and the effort that it takes to hold faster speeds really is quite a bit easier than on my old bike (probably due to the different gearing). And the best part is – today I’m feeling fine. Other than my legs being a little sluggish today and my backside being a little sore from breaking in a new bike seat – I’m feeling like I could probably head out and do the ride again today.
Oh, and for those that missed the ride this year and want to think about it for next. They give out strawberry shortcake at the end of the ride to all the riders. Around 80 miles and a bunch of gatorade and bananas later – that sounds like the best food in the world (that an McDonald’s Cheeseburger, which I had after the ride). But the shortcake is definitely a good reward for all the hard work (and good too).
With the winter storms in the Willamette Valley moving from snow and ice to wind and rain, I’ve been enjoying a long week of riding into a stiff headwind (10-15 mph steady, 25-35 mph gusts) and getting soaked by the rain. But that’s alright, that’s why I buy Gortex. However, today was one of those extra special days. 🙂
After riding against a stiff headwind this morning (and being happy that I don’t live in the gorge, where they were seeing gusts over 100 mph), I was looking forward to a fast ride home in the evening. And it started good. However, things started to go wrong once I had gotten onto highway 99, and the last 20 miles from my house. Shortly after leaving Corvallis, I felt my bike seize. With all the snow and ice over the last few weeks of December, ODOT had laid down a lot of loose gravel. Well, this stuff isn’t washing away quickly, and tonight, some of the gravel got wedged into my chain. I rolled the chain backwards, and things started moving again. Unfortunately, I could tell that my chain got bent, because it started slipping. Frustrating, but I figured I could still limp the bike home. However, maybe 6-7 miles down the road, the chain breaks.
Now, bike chains come in many shapes and sizes. Mine has what’s called a master link — this is a link that allows you to easily remove your chain (for cleaning, adjustments, etc). This was fortunate. My chain broke one link past the master link. This meant that I was able to simply remove the broken link and then rethread my chain. I lose a couple of gears, but at least I can get home. Normally, this fix is a couple of minute job. However, in the wind, rain and dark (did I mention that it was pitch dark), this becomes a much more difficult repair (especially if you drop the master link).
Anyway, a couple minute job turned into a 15 minute job, but I got the bike running again. Yeah. With the bad link gone, this are working much better (though, I can tell that the chain still isn’t quite right). Well, another mile down the road, and my back tire goes flat. Again, another couple minute job that is infinitely more difficult in the dark and rain and became a 10 minute job. So, after spending about an extra 30-35 minutes doing repairs, I finally was able to limp home.
Actually, the ride could have been a lot worst. When I was changing my back tire and removing the piece of glass that had gotten lodged into it, I noticed that the tred was starting to pull away from the tire. This isn’t good — and generally is the mark of a complete tire failure. After changing the flat, I was really hoping that my tire would last just long enough to get me home. It did, but it took it’s toll. Going out to look over my bike to assess for further damage (since I already know I’m replacing my chain, but making sure that I didn’t chew up my cassette, chain rings or derailers) I noticed that my back tire was flat again. A slow leak — and that there is now a 3″ spot on my tire where the tred has completely pulled away, leaving the kevlar completely exposed.
On the bright-side, I do so enjoy going to the bike shop. 🙂
A lot of folks know that cycling for me is a year round event. Well, during the winter, the weather turns dark, cold and wet. Now, it’s not nearly as cold as those folks that live in snowy weather climates, but it pretty much starts raining in Oct and then stops sometime around May. So, for the better part of the year, I’m wet, muddy and destroying my summer cycling shoes.
Generally, I wear overshoes. These are basically gloves for your shoes. Unfortunately, biking in the Pacific Northwest is kind of like standing in a stream for an hour so all that these things are really good for is keeping your feet a little warmer (though, certainly not dry). I’ve yet to find a pair of overshoes that actually keep my feet dry. And, one thing that I’ve found is that summer shoes — they tend to fall apart when wet.
So a solution…I just picked up a pair of Northwave Celsius J GTX Cycling Boots.
These things aren’t as light as my summer riding shoes, but they aren’t heavy either. I was expecting something like ski boots. Instead, they are only slightly heavier than my general riding shoes and honestly, a little more comfortable. I got these shoes because they have a gore tex shell (so they are suppose to be water proof) and a thermal lining (so they should be warm all year).
Anyway — I took them on their maden voyage today and after my first day in the evening rain, I’m finding that they are keeping my feet dry and toasty. Hopefully, as the weather turns nasty, I’ll find that these new boots will be the answer to my cold, wet feet. 🙂
Watching my two boys (6 and 3) is amazing. They have boundless energy. I remember when I had boundless energy. Today, I feel like I’m stuck in the mud. After 600 miles on the bike and about 60 miles running over the past two weeks I’m tired and sore (not a good, since I’ve still got at least another 150 miles on the bike and maybe another 12-15 running miles for this week). Today for example, 50 miles (25 against a 9 mph side/head wind) on the bike actually was pretty fun. Then I got home, put on my running shoes and heading out for my run. It took 3 miles before my calves finally started to loosen up — and by then — I was done. Fortunately, I don’t mind the tired or the soreness These types of weeks aren’t so bad because they let you see how much you are willing to suffer on the bike, on the road before you simply have to stop, which makes a big difference when you actually get into a long ride or road race. The one good thing with age at least — is the pain threshhold seems to be much higher. Of course, that’s probably because recovery takes so much longer. 🙂
Thank goodness we are coming to the end of winter riding season. For the first time in a long time, I’d decided to log my commuting trips throughout the year to get a better idea of how many commuting miles I keep off my car. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (who does a fun little bike challenge in Sept.) has a web site where riders of participating organizations can log in and keep track of their commuting miles.
Now, I haven’t actually formally logged miles in a long time. I ride a lot and can generally give a pretty good guesstimate of miles, but having the ride log here is actually fun. Looking between Sept. to present, the average number of miles logged during a month has been approximately 800 commuting miles. Throw in other riding that I do, and that number likely rounds out to close to 1100 or so miles per winter month. The most commuting miles that I’ve logged during a month so far is was in January, when I rode close to 1000 commuting miles in the snow and the slop, with the shortest number being in February, when traveling keep me off the bike, logging only about 550 commuting miles during the month.
Anyway, it’s definitely time for the sun to come out. In anticipation, I’ve already put away most of my winter riding thermals (and paid for it last week when morning temperatures hovered around 27), removed my fenders from my bike and am considering throwing caution to the wind and removing my winter tires (marathon plus — one flat over almost 5600+ commuting miles) for a set of light and thin trainers — though, I might wait just a few more weeks before I do anything that drastic. 🙂
I need to thank Kyle — because of him, I’m riding quite a few more miles during the winter than normal. In a normal year, I’d say that I put approximately 10,000 or so commuting miles on my bike (this doesn’t include my recreational riding). However, once winter comes around, I generally start cutting back the miles a little bit by riding 1/2 my commuting distance 2 days a week, and the full distance the other days. This cuts off about 50 miles a week. Well, with Kyle around, I’ve been finding it much easier getting out every day in the wind and the rain and the crud. Somehow, riding in the crud with someone seems to make it all better (at least in the morning — there’s nothing good about wet socks in the afternoon :)).
Anyway, I’ve been tracking my miles since Sept. Even with traveling over a week each month, taking away at least 5 riding days, I’ve logged:
Sept: 850 miles
Oct: 1050 miles
November (to present): 550 miles
Hopefully, all this extra riding will pay dividends come spring/summer when the recreational cycling begins and my fancy turns towards the mountains. 🙂
After spending two weeks running around Vermont hiking, biking and finding a little time to speak to friends at Middlebury College and the Readex Institute — I’ve apparently had a little too good of a time because when I got back, the cycling gremlins jumped all over me.
Monday — my first day back — I’m looking forward to getting onto the bike and I get out about 4 miles and I’m not sure what I ran over, but it tore open my Marathon Plus tires. Now, for those that don’t ride much, these tires are nearly indestructible. They are my winter tires precisely because they don’t get flats. I only had two flats last year on these tires — both times when a nail had broken off in my tires. I’ll take that. So, I was really surprised when I ran over something that actually cut a chunk out of my tires. Since it left a bare spot on my tire, I had to limp/walk it home.
Tuesday — I’d bought a new set of Marathons and put them on my bike. Now, as good as these tires are — they are a pain to get on the bike the first time. Until they are stretched, they take a super-human effort to mount. I’d wrestled with my tires Monday night — so Tuesday, I was ready to roll, or so I thought. When I walked down in the morning, I found that my new tire was flat. I quickly pumped it up and could hear the unmistakable sound of air escaping. So, I pulled the tire off again, put on a new tire, pumped it up and broke the stem. So, without leaving the house, I’d already flattened two tires. Sigh.
Wednesday — Whooho! A nice ride in the rain — and no flats. 🙂
I’ve been fortunate to get to spend the last few days in the beautiful state of Vermont. This isn’t my first time here, nor do I think it will be my last. I’ve been here since Friday…visiting friends in Middlebury, though I will find some time the first week of Oct. to do a little work. 🙂
Anyway, when I travel, I always try to experience a bit of the local color in the area. Fortunately for me, this is easy as the leaves are turning and color is everywhere. 🙂 This morning, a friend of mine and I drove to NY to hike up Giant Mt. Couldn’t have asked for a better day…66ish, cool in the trails and blue skies. I got lots of pictures (though I’ll have to post them later), but I doubt I could have asked for a better day. Couple this with the 50ish mile ride I did in the back country of Vermont, and you have the makings for a spectacular weekend.
Today marked the first day since last winter where I road home in utter blackness. Generally, this would happen much later in the year but I hung around Corvallis a bit later than usual and started for home a little after 8 pm. While it’s dark at 8 pm, it gets really dark after 8:30 pm.
For the most part, I don’t mind riding in the dark. It’s something you get use to over the course of the winter. The first couple of times though, it reminds me of how lonely it can be out there all by yourself on the bike. Tonight, all I was able to hear was the sound of the crickets and the wind in my ears — and unlike the winter, when there’s a fair amount of traffic, tonight was completely silent.
In general, it’s the loneliness on the road that gets to me the first couple of times. I enjoy the sights and sounds of riding a bike. In the dark, my world is a space of ~20 feet in front of me. I can’t see anything behind, below or perifierally around me — only the 20 ft illuminated by my bike lamp. Truth be told, I actually like riding at night when there is a lot of traffic, simply because the lights from the cars give me a much wider view of the area around me. I think, to a small degree, it must be what it’s like to be in a sensory deprivation tank. I can’t hear anything (but wind) and I can only see that small lighted area. It’s definitely something that needs to be eased into.
Fortunately, this year I’ll have Kyle Banerjee to ride with 3 days out of the week this winter. Having an extra rider will be nice since we’ll be more visible to the cars around us and I’ll have someone to chat with. But for tonight, I put down a pretty quick pace getting home in a little over an hour and made it home without any problems. I only had a few folks honk at me on the ride home (it takes drivers some getting use to as well — seeing a rider at night) I think a few more times and I’ll be ready for those long winter rides again.
So this is downright embarrassing. For the second time in about a month, I’ve basically just tipped over on my bike and fallen off. The first time it happened, I had gotten cut off and couldn’t get my feet out of my cleats fast enough to keep from falling. That was less embarrassing since it wasn’t completely my fault — though the blood stains on my shoes from my fall mocks me still.
Today, I was coming into work and while coasting, started fishing around in a pocket for my keys. Well, it was wet and I wasn’t paying attention and missed the ridge where the road and loading dock at the library come together…and off I went. For someone that rides as often as I do, you’d think I’d be spending more time on my bike and less time on the ground. 🙂